Bahuvrihi Compounds

Mon May 3 16:48:39 UTC 1993

My son, a PhD candidate in Information Science has posed this question.
I have sent him some textbook material on bahuvrihi compounds, but
none of these dealt with the derivation of the term "bahuvrihi" itself;
namely, why  a term meaning "much-riced" or "having much rice" would
be used to denote an exocentric compound.  Your help will be appreciated
since it will help me to maintain status with my son who outpaced me
intellectually when he was about 8 years old.
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      Do you have any idea why exocentric compounds are called "bahuvrihi"
      compounds by Sanskrit grammarians? An exocentric compound is one that
      lacks a "head." For example, a bootstrap (ignoring the semantic drift)
      is a kind of strap and a truck driver a kind of driver. Those are
      endocentric compounds. But a pickpocket is not a kind of pocket, nor
      is a lazybones a kind of bone (or a kind of lazyness). These headless
      compounds are exocentric. The word bahuvrihi means "(having) much rice"
      and I was wondering how I could find out whether the word is itself
      an exocentric compound. For example, if "muchrice" is used to denote
      an affluent person, then it would be neither a kind of rice nor a kind
      of muchness. Now that I've turned in my morphology final I am free to
      discuss trivia like this (although I should be grading papers instead).
 |                 Stephen Dubin VMD PhD                     |
 |     Biomedical Engineering and Science Institute          |
 |     Drexel University,  Philadelphia  PA  19104           |
 |       Phone: 215-895-2219   Fax: 215-895-4983             |
 |   Email: dubinse at   CIS: 76074,55      |

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